Good Bikes and Free Streets

By Michael Haggerty

We’ve been noticing a lot more bicycles on the streets here in Solo.

Maybe it’s the time of year – in the dry season it’s so much easier to be outside. And this year, the weather in Central Java has been especially forgiving. Maybe it’s even a little less dusty than usual around here.

But right now is also the anniversary of “Solo Car Free Day.” Last year, for the first time, the city shut down Jalan Slamet Riyadi, which is the main commercial and cultural corridor in Solo. Every Sunday morning – from just after prayers at 5:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. – the street is closed to cars and motorcycles. It’s becoming so popular that even people who don’t own one are climbing onto their friends’ bikes just to be part of this scene of early-risers.

Good Bikes and Free Streets from Michael Haggerty on Vimeo.

So it’s possible that Solo Car Free Day is also encouraging people to bring their bikes out during the rest of the week to get to work and school or go shopping. This would be a welcome alternative – if the streets become more accommodating for people on bikes, maybe they’ll even become safer for pedestrians!

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Pekalongan Awash with Color

By John Taylor




Pekalongan is a city of many colors: endlessly long pieces of cloth hang in the sun to dry, often yellow, violet, red, orange and blues. New buildings are painted bright colors, even gate railings can have color coordinated paint. It seems that the combination of its coastal location, artistic residents and bold Batik motifs have made Pekalongan a city that’s proud to paint itself boldly. On bright sunny days, such as during the week the Solo Kota Kita was working there, the city was vibrant with this kaleidoscope of different colors.

The Solo Kota Kita team was in Pekalongan for a week to survey the city and gather information about its current and future planning goals. The visit was part of the work we’re doing for UN HABITAT’s Cities Development Strategy (CDS) program, where we’ll be creating a city profile for Pekalongan, Solo, and Banjarmasin. During our stay in the city we visited Batik villages, coastal settlements, the old harbor, and new middle-class suburban developments, all to get an understanding of the city’s form and future growth potential.

Pekalongan has both strong assets to build on as well as challenges it faces ahead. It is known as one of Indonesia’s original Batik cities, hundreds of small-scale batik producers design and produce large amounts of Batik there. You can see evidence of this all over the city, Batik is being made and dried everywhere! The city is supporting the Batik industry by encouraging innovation in design and marketing, they’ve opened a Batik museum, training schools, and computer labs specifically to support it. The city is also promoting cultural tourism to Batik villages like Kauman, in the heart of the old city.

On the other hand, the threat of climate change and problems of environmental degradation, such as coastal inundation, create impediments for Pekalongan’s continued growth. Everyday in the north of the city the high tide from the sea prevents the city’s rivers from draining. This backs up water that spills over into neighborhoods located there, such as Pabean. High tides also flood coastal areas with saltwater that damages local rice paddies and inundates homes. This has negatively affected Batik producers such as those in Pabean who have little space to dry their products. The city government is proposing various projects such as a sea wall, mangrove restoration and improving the drainage system to address the rising sea level.

Bright colors are not the only ones to be seen in the city, the Batik dyes that drain into local streams end up coloring it a dark murky color that demonstrates high pollution levels in the water. The color of this river could be a good indicator of the city’s situation in the future. Can Pekalongan balance the development of the Batik industry, its main economic and cultural potential, with concerns about environmental sustainability and public health? Can it successfully invest in defending its coastline and restoring river systems while at the same time supporting local businesses? If so, then Pekalongan’s rivers may someday run with clean water, reflecting the bright colors of the city’s natural and economic fortunes.

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City Development Strategies: SKK Team Summer Fieldwork

By John Taylor

As the sun sets over the Java Sea, fishermen sit contemplating the late afternoon catch in mangroves by the shoreline. Not far from them, along the coast, lie mounds of rocks and construction material. In another site across the city, market vendors close their stalls for the day. They fold and store away a rich variety of batik textiles and clothing for another day at the market.



The Solo Kota Kita team is now in Pekalongan, a small coastal city of around 200,000 inhabitants on the north coast of Java. The team is visiting and surveying Pekalongan for the UN-HABITAT ‘City Development Strategy (CDS): Making Urban Investment Work’ program. Through visiting with local officials and making site visits to different locations throughout the city we are able to see and understand a lot about Pekalongan, including seeing the above rare sights!

One of the objectives of CDS is to create a city profile for the cities of Pekalongan, Banjarmasin, and Solo. The profile summarizes and communicates the strategic vision of each city, the stakeholders who inhabit it, and provides an analysis of its urban form so that people can understand what proposed projects are intended for. Through CDS the team will also facilitate participatory workshops with city residents to explain individual projects to residents that local government are planning, and gather support for their implementation.

These activities are part of advocacy work that UN-HABITAT and Solo Kota Kita are undertaking to help Indonesian cities access national budget resources to support their urban development plans. By helping cities demonstrate coherent strategic plans and general public support for public investment initiatives (such as bus terminals and market improvement projects) it will be easier for national government to channel funding to them.

The afternoon seaside setting and the batik market both tell us something about Pekalongan, some of the challenges it is facing now, and where it wants to go in the future. At the moment the city faces the threat of sea-levels rising and suffers from frequent tidal inundation – known locally as “rob.” This is when water from rivers cannot drain because of high tides, causing water to back-up and flood parts of the city. The boulders and construction material along the coast will be used to make a large coastal defense wall, intended to protect the city from the rising sea. The vendors selling batik, Pekalongan’s most famous product, are one part of the city’s most dynamic economic sector. Batik is part of the city’s heritage, and its producers will play an important role in creating jobs and income for the city in coming years.

By visiting these locations we’re able to understand how the city works, and how strategic projects will contribute to its development in the future. We intend to communicate what we learn about this and the other two cities through the city profiles in the coming months.

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Boats, Housing, Toilets, and Trash in Banjarmasin

By Michael Haggerty

The team from Solo is on the road this week Banjarmasin – the capital of Kalimantan. This “city of a thousand rivers” has for decades been a center of regional shipping for the coal, timber, and rubber being extracted from Borneo. But these resources in the hinterland are running out and so the city leaders are projecting a new future for the city as a center of trade and services.

We are here because Banjarmasin is one of three cities – Solo and Pekalongan are the other two – our team is studying for UN-HABITAT this summer. For the last couple of days we’ve been meeting with BAPPEDA – the local planning department – to learn about their vision for Banjarmasin. Even though today was a holiday, a few planners and engineers took us to visit current development projects through the city.

First we visited a new “IPAL” facility. The city plans to construct fourteen of these localized waste water treatment facilities. Because in many areas there are no sewers, the city installs septic tanks in houses and then collects waste on a regular basis. It’s filtered here and then released back into the rivers. The staff are experimenting with using the treated water for aqua-culture. Each facility serves one neighborhood.

Next we visited Banjarmasin’s first low-income housing development. About 1,000 people will live here and, at five stories, these are the tallest residential buildings in the city. Economic activities are restricted here, but laundering appears to have taken over most common spaces in the development.

We also went to the city dump, which has been operating since 1999, but will close in two years when a new regional landfill opens. About 200 people come everyday to pick over the garbage pile. Nearby, the city is experimenting with a new composting program. Organic waste from one of the city’s many fruit and vegetable markets is brought here, composted, and then used in city parks. Banjarmasin is projected to double in population – from 700,000 to 1,400,000 in 25 years – so the city’s capacity to manage waste needs to greatly increase. The city has a campaign with households to educate people about how to reduce daily waste.

Our last stop was a new harbor the city is building south of the historic waterfront trading district. This landing is intended to provide a better facility for medium-size boats that bring goods and materials to the city. Banjarmasin also has a container port, but it serves international shipping. However, this is an undeveloped area of Banjarmasin, so adequate infrastructure has yet to be built here. It looks quiet because we visited at noon and most of the activity happens at sunrise.

The city is trying out many different ideas to respond to the growing need for housing, infrastructure, and sanitation. The purpose of our project with UN-HABITAT is to create better channels from municipalities like Banjarmasin to the national government to seek support for projects like these. So for the rest of our visit this week, we’ll be spending time with the city’s planners and documenting development initiatives in Banjarmasin.

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Studio Visits with Our Friends at UNS…

By Michael Haggerty

This morning the Solo Kota Kita team paid a visit to Universitas Salebas Maret, which we always enjoy doing because so many of the students who volunteer with our team come from the architecture school here. Stephen and Alice shared their studio work from MIT and then we had a good discussion about the challenges and politics of being a designer or planner in Solo.

So what’s on the students’ minds? Some topics that came up today: rivers, public spaces and why some never get used, how and when to listen to the public during the design process, the role of architects in mediating conflict between communities and government…

Great talk! And thank you to Bima Pratama for organizing the discussion!!

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What is “Eco-Cultural Solo?” Ask a Student Designer…

By Michael Haggerty

Congratulations to Sella Chintia Dev – a volunteer with Solo Kota Kita in 2009 and 2010 – whose design team was awarded first prize today in the “Eco-Cultural Solo” competition. Sella worked with other students from Universitas Salebas Maret and community leaders from the Jagalan neighborhood to present ideas about how to improve public spaces along local riverbanks.

The competition was sponsored by Dinas Tata Ruang Kota – Solo’s spatial planning department – and matched architecture and planning students with Lurahs (neighborhood leaders) and community organizations. Twenty-two neighborhoods submitted entries and the winning project will be implemented with city funding next year.

We really support the spirit of this design competition – it provides important experiences in community service for young designers and planners and creates of culture of sustainability among residents in Solo’s neighborhoods, where “eco-cultural” gets its start.

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Community Action Planning in… Mongolia!

By Michael Haggerty

John and Michael recently travelled to the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaator, to facilitate a community action planning workshop with residents of the city’s ger districts.

In the last decade, tens of thousands of people have migrated to Ulaanbaator and settled on hillsides on the city’s periphery. The migrants live in the traditional nomad tent – known as a ger – a centuries-old housing type in Mongolia. Over 60% of the city’s 1 million residents now live in these ger districts.

Many of the urban poor who need to be close to urban services have settled in the gullies in the hillsides. There they are exposed to annual floods during the summer rains. Residents often experience loss of property and life. But the ger districts also lack basic services and infrastructure, so UN-HABITAT has been working with residents for the past seven years to form what are called Community Development Councils. These CDCs work together to improve the neighborhoods.

Our workshop brought together seven CDCs – which represent about 2,500 households – to generate solutions for disaster risk reduction.

When we visited the Unur area, we saw that many small human alterations to the landscape were making floods worse. For example, some people excavate out of the hillside to make a flat plot of land for their ger and then move the left-over soil into the gully. People are always moving into and out of Unur and the landscape is fast-changing – so are the locations and impacts of the floods.

As a result, there is no single, large-scale solution. Instead, the CDCs discussed how small-scale solutions could be implemented using resources in the community in order to incrementally reduce flood impacts. One possible solution, for example, is to dig trenches on individual plots to prevent storm water from running off into the gullies. This would mimic the role of water retention that top soil and vegetation played before it was lost as the area developed.

Our team put together a “toolkit” of solutions with a water specialist from Arcadis, an Amsterdam-based engineering firm that provides pro bono services to UN-HABITAT through a program called ARCShelter. The book we created to document the community action plan can be downloaded here: Unur Area CAP – Hi Res, Unur Area CAP – Lo Res. Sorry, but the book is only available in English.

So what does all this have to do with Indonesia and Solo?

Like Unur, many neighborhoods in Solo are exposed to floods from the city’s rivers. The community action planning process is a tool for participation that is used around the world. In particular, it was used following the 2004 tsunami in Aceh and 2006 earthquake in Jojga. We hope this project illustrates ways residents and local government in Solo can think about addressing the problem of floods in their neighborhoods.

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Mini Atlases also Work for Mid-term Community Planning

By Ahmad Rifai

In the beginning of August 2010, I was invited by the Local Committee for Poverty Alleviation (TKPKD) to a meeting about eradicating poverty in Solo City. The committee is established under a national regulation (Permendagri No 42/2010) to maintain coordination among stakeholders in the city relating to poverty alleviation projects. In the mean time, the committee is lead by the vice mayor of Surakarta and consists of four working groups: 1) Research, development, and data information; 2) community-based poverty alleviation projects; 3) micro and small scale economic empowerment; and 4) household social assistance and aid. Representing Solo Kota Kita, I am involved in the first working group.

The TKPKD has a main mandate to establish a local strategy for poverty alleviation which is coordinated with poverty alleviation throughout the city. At the same time, the TKPKD has to prepare neighborhoods to have five year plans that can adapt as the strategy is implemented.

Three weeks later after joining the committee, I was informed by the secretariat of TKPKD that there will be a meeting in SKK office to discuss initiatives to prepare mid-term plans certain neighborhoods. The meeting aimed at designing a pilot methodology in Serengan or Sudiroprajan for mid-term planning called Rencana Pembangunan Jangka Menengah Kelurahan (RPJMKel). Solo Kota Kita was responsible for providing assistance during community meeting to create this pilot.

In my opinion, the mini atlas can be very useful to guide the meeting since it tries to generate identification of issues, assets, and intervention in the neighborhood. We agreed upon having the pilot in Sudiroprajan, so the mini atlas is to be a tool to better inform the discussion process. I was amazed: people from the RW in Sudiropajan can acknowledged their problems by looking at the maps and statistics in the mini atlas. For example, in RW 4, people talked about the number of kids out of school, and then they decided that they really need a community library where their kids could also read and become more aware of good education.

My friends Jack and Ian said to me after discussion in RW 4, “This is such a good start. We haven’t seen how mini atlases work in musrenbang, the annual neighborhood meetings, but we have seen how it works in this RPJMKel pilot meeting.” I concluded optimistically that “this is gonna work too in musrenbang.”

Early November, the team evaluated the discussion process in the RWs throughout Sudiroprajan. Generally in poor areas like Sudiroprajan, information can help people identify specific issues in their RW and the locations in their neighborhood that have more problems than others. In RW 9 for example, which doesn’t have residents since it is an economic center, people discussed issues there that relate to everyone in the neighborhood. By the end of December, the aggregated issues from each RWs will be presented to neighborhood residents and discussed again. Elected representatives from each RW will go the neighborhood hall and they will discuss issues together, prioritize them, and decide the five year plan for their neighborhood.

From this pilot, the city will prepare city-wide initiatives to promote the importance of RPJMKel for better neighborhood planning. Many stakeholders will benefit from RPJMKel, such as the World Bank program PNPM, which is able to coordinate their projects with neighborhood planning. Government can also better prioritize the city projects, NGOs can adapt neighborhood plans to specific needs, and the national government can focus their resources on poverty reduction.

Solo Kota Kita, of course, will play an important role by providing tools and information in assisting the discussion. Maps, statistics, and other information provided in the mini atlases as well as on the website will become core instrument to make planning better and bring the initiatives of RPJMKel into reality.

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Musrenbang is Here – and so are the Mini Atlases!

By Michael Haggerty

The musrenbang season is here – over the next few weeks residents in Solo will come together in every neighborhood to undertake participatory budgeting and put forward their ideas for improving the city.

So it should come as no surprise if you see the mini atlas in the corner of your eye as you walk or ride your motorcycle around Solo. We’ve distributed mini atlases in public spaces through Solo’s 51 neighborhood. The atlases are in community centers, newspaper kiosks, and health clinics throughout the city – and on solokotakita.org, of course!

Here’s a few snapshots Ian took in Mojosongo, Tipes, and Baluwarti of the mini atlas in action.

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The Press on Solo Kota Kita

By Michael Haggerty

Thanks to two curious journalists in the United States, we are getting the word out on Solo Kota Kita as well as hearing new perspectives on participatory budgeting.

Theo Schell-Lambert from GOOD Magazine describes how we worked with the RT system in Solo, which he says provides “enviable tools for information gathering and urban planning.”

Read the full story:

And Jonathan Schultz from Design Observer said our “unique, design-led approach has engaged citizens at all levels of society, yielding a clear-eyed assessment of actionable budgetary items for 2011 as well as a graphics-rich profile of a society.”

Read the full story:

Now tell us what you think!

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